Sunday, October 24, 2021

Water Quality and the Environment, a Murky Issue

Throughout all of Southwest Florida, discussions are ongoing in regard to water quality and how to maintain and improve the area’s greatest asset, our environment. Over the last several years, a considerable amount of emphasis has been placed upon Lake Okeechobee and the toxic discharges which come from that source down the Caloosahatchee River to the west coast of Florida and out the St. Lucie Canal and out through the St. Lucie River to the east coast of Florida, with devastating results.

Those discharges are necessary to lessen the stress on the Hoover Dike, which is in disrepair and has the potential for failure if it is not rebuilt sooner rather than later. Monies have been allocated to rebuild that structure, but the need for a permanent redirection of excess waters from the lake is another perplexing challenge. Environmental engineers and planners are working on finding solutions to redirect those water back into the Everglades.

Testing was just one of the issues that was discussed at the workshop Marco Island City Councilors held earlier this month. At that workshop, councilors, staff, residents and environmentalists heard from Tim Hall, an ecologist with Turrell, Hall and Associates. Hall presented a report which showed the overall level of nitrogen in our waterways in 2018 had continued to increase since the 2017 report, which showed levels above the state requirements.

No firm pinpointing of what was causing the spike in nitrogen levels in the island’s waterways was determined. Speculation revolved around increased run-off from developed lots around the island due to an increase in impervious areas on building lots. Another area of concern focused on direct discharges from roadways such as Collier Boulevard into the Landmark Waterway.

Several residents came forward to comment on the reduction of seagrasses and the drop in the quality of fishing around Marco Island. David Rasmussen, a 20-year resident of Caxambas Court, made the point that the clarity of the water is almost non-existent in Caxambas Bay, therefore wiping out the sea grasses and subsequently killing off the fish population.

It was brought out that although the City of Marco Island and its residents invested considerable monies to complete the sanitary wastewater system on the island, the area abutting the island is under the control of Collier County, and little has been done to require county residents living in Isles of Capri and Goodland to do the same.

Consensus was reached that the city should make water testing a monthly process and increase the number of test points. Councilor Howard Reed suggested the city consider testing some points off-shore of Marco Island, which was met with considerable support.

Rick Woodworth, Chairman of the Waterways Advisory Committee, came forward to support the addition of a Landmark testing point and also to add turbidity testing to the list of tests being done. It was pointed out that the turbidity testing was indeed being done, but not included in their reports that are done for the city by the county staff.

Others would come forward to question the effect that marinas have on water quality, specifically in the cleaning of boats.

It was agreed that they would meet again in the workshop format in April to consider the items they have discussed to allow staff the time to consider those discussions and come back with answers to many of the questions.

Chairman Erik Brechnitz would explain that many of these items would be considered during the upcoming budgetary cycle and funding mechanisms would have to be identified to deal with them.


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